Anton Geesink (The Netherlands) - 1997
Anton Geesink was a world-renowned 10th Dan from the Netherlands who was known as a gentle giant off the tatami. To great fanfare, Geesink showed the world that Japan was beatable as he won the open-weight title at the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games, while the three other categories were all won by Japanese judoka. Geesink won 21 senior European championship gold medals and in 1961 became the first non-Japanese world championship winner. The Dutchman retired in 1967 and became a member of the board of the Dutch National Olympic Committee and later the International Olympic Committee. His hometown of Utrecht honoured him with a statue in the centre of the city in 1995 and in 1997 he was awarded the coveted 10th Dan by the IJF. Further honours followed including the Order of the Sacred Treasure from the Japanese government and in 2000 he received an honorary doctorate by Kokushikan University. A street in Utrecht was also named after him. Geesink lived there until his death in August 2010.
Charles Palmer (Great Britain) - 1997
Charles Palmer is fondly remembered as the ‘father of modern judo’. A talented judoka who once captained the British team, Palmer would go on to change the course of the sport after retiring from competition. In 1961 the flamboyant Briton was elected as Chair of the British Judo Association, a post which he held for the next 24 years. In 1965 he was elected as the first non-Japanese President of the International Judo Federation. He was awarded an OBE in 1973 and was presented with the Key to the City of Taipei in 1974 and the Key to the City of Seoul in 1981. In 1983, he was elected to the post of Chair of the British Olympic Association (BOA) and fulfilled that role until 1988. In 1999 he was awarded his 10th Dan by the IJF. Palmer died aged 71 in 2001.
Jaap Nauwelaerts D’Age (The Netherlands) - 2008
Jaap Nauwelaerts D’ Age was a founding member of the European Judo Union, in 1948. After his sport career, he occupied several positions, including coach, referee and board member and contributed widely to the development of judo in Europe and in the wider world. He was also one of the founding members of the Dutch Judo Association. He was awarded the grade of 10th Dan in 2008. He passed away in 2016 at the age of 98.
Henri Courtine (France) - 2010
On 10th September 2007, approved by the IJF in 2010, Henri Courtine became the first and only 10th Dan in the history of French judo. Henri Courtine died at the age of 90 having been a special figure of French and world judo. He was considered one of the first great stylists of judo and he was the first national technical director in France. Born on 11th May 1930, in 1954, aged 24, he became a major international medallist when he placed 2nd at the European Championships in Brussels. A year later he repeated that silver medal at the Paris edition. The following year, Henri Courtine stepped on the podium of the first World Championships, in Tokyo. He went on to obtain several European titles before passing to the other side of the barrier, becoming a national coach. From 1979 to 1987, he was the Sport Director of the International Judo Federation.
George Kerr (Great Britain) - 2010
Edinburgh’s George Kerr is one of the most decorated and respected sports people in the history of British sport. He was awarded his 10th Dan by the IJF for international services to judo in 2010 after a fairytale career which included European championship honours, top-class refereeing and guiding his judoka to two Olympic gold medals. The Scot became President of the British Judo Association in 2001 and a year later was named as one of the inaugural members of the Scottish Sports Hall of Fame. He was appointed Commander of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2011 New Year Honours and also received Japan’s Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Rosette, after being included in Emperor Akihito's November 2010 honours list.
Franco Capelletti (Italy) - 2017
Franco Capelletti has been visible in the judo world for decades. He was born in 1938 near Lake Iseo, northern Italy. In 2017 he was awarded the 10th Dan directly from the hands of IJF President Marius Vizer. He occupied several positions within the European Judo Union and the International Judo Federation. Franco Capelletti is one of the most lauded names in Italian judo and shares a lifetime of judo experience with all who come into contact with him. Franco Capelletti is today the Chair of the IJF Kata Commission.